Monday, 28 March 2016

Another Change of Topic - Visiting a Local UK Stately Home

Hello Everyone!

First of all, my apologies for missing last week's blog, but time simply flew by, and as there was little more to post about, I decided to let the occasion pass!

This week, however, I'm delighted to tell you that the White and Yellow Plush Baby Rabbits  mentioned in our last post who were en route to Florida - got to their intended destination in time for Easter.

MrsDM, the Buyer, who intended the Yellow one for her Sister - to remind them both of their childhood in England, sent this message - which I picked up on Easter Saturday.

"The little bunnies arrived today, just in time for Easter tomorrow. I took my sister her yellow bunny and she just broke into a huge smile and started cuddling it. I adore my little one as well. Thanks so much, they are a so very cute."

The more Cuddlies I make, the more I am convinced that although I make Toys for EVERYONE, most of them seem to end up with folks who like to be reminded of childhood days, rather than those who are actually experiencing them now!!  Not a problem, but.........!!

In my title, I allude to the fact that you are going to be told about one of the local visitor attractions - of which there are fortunately quite a few in the local vicinity - Hardwick Hall - a National Trust property which is located 7-9 miles from where I live in Kirkby in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. There are several ways to approach Hardwick Hall (HH from now on), which is actually over the country border in Derbyshire (which is only a couple of miles away from Kirkby) and that accounts for the mileage variation!!

Built by Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury (which she became as the result of one of her four marriages), parts of the site have been in existence since the 1500's.  Bess is mostly described as being "formidable", and when you consider she lived at the same time as Queen Elizabeth I, and was the second richest person in the land at that time, you get some idea of the lady's stature!  Her grand daughter, Arbella, was niece of Mary, Queen of Scots (having married Mary's nephew Charles Stuart) and a serious contender to succeed the childless Queen Elizabeth.  However, that possibility was scuppered by the fact that Charles Stuart died, and Arbella was imprisoned by Elizabeth in the Tower of London, so the crown passed to Mary's son, James I (VI of Scotland) - and the rest, as the saying goes - is History!!

Bess was intent on making a statement of her status - hence the creation of Hardwick Hall, which is now part of the National Trust - having been acquired for their portfolio in place of death duties from the Estate of the Duke of Devonshire.  (Hardwick Hall, became part of the Devonshire's Estate as the result of an earlier Duke of Devonshire's marriage, and is not very far from Chatsworth - where the current Duke of Devonshire still lives.)  HH is built on the top of a ridge which over looks the M1 motorway - connecting London and Scotland - and despite the Old Hall (original, but burned before being replaced by the current structure) being in ruins, both structures can still be visited.  

A view of the Old Hall, with visitors in the foreground.
Our visit was on a grey, Spring day with gusty winds, which were enough to nearly blow us away at times, so the buildings and garden don't show themselves well.  However, I hope the photographs which follow will give folks an idea of the grandeur of the site, and may be entice overseas readers to visit when they come to the UK.  (As most of you are aware, I am sure, there is a lot more to the United Kingdom than just London - although one can spend a lot of time there, and not see EVERYTHING worth seeing in that City too).

The view from the Hall Grounds at the entrance Visitors take to view the Grounds and Hall.
Stableyard and Estate Buildings - now used for displaying tourist attractions.
Rear of the Stable - now used as Visitor Restaurant.  Too cold for outside lingering when we visited.

Entrance to Hardwick Hall on its South-facing side.

Just to prove the family were all there!  Grandad was taking the picture!
On the right of the above photo, you'll see the branch end of a magnificent fir tree, which has obviously been in situ for decades, if not centuries.  Alas, the combination of heavy snow and gale force winds suffered over Christmas a couple of years' ago, resulted in the trunk being shattered at the top of the tree. 

To leave it was against every tenet of the "dreaded" Health & Safety regime,  It required the services of the "biggest crane available in the UK, and two days' labour" - to quote one of the staff directing visitors along)  to remove it safely and get it over the wall!

The coat of arms of the Earl of Shrewsbury are depicted in the centre of the balustrade running along the top of the South Side of the Hall, and atop each front wing of the building there are the letters ES- Elizabeth Shrewsbury - just to make sure everyone knew to whom the building belonged!  Also, take note of the number of windows  - at a time when there was a window tax in effect!  Bess, who "married well", despite being widowed thrice, did not care - and was happy for all to know it! 

Thanks to an accident the week before last, in which the family dog got spooked and I ended up falling in the road collecting some interesting bruises (most of which could not be exhibited and so get sympathy) the visit to the house and gardens had to be curtailed.  However, I took sufficient photographs on this occasion for at least another post here - and as this one has gone on for some time, I'll post the rest of the visit illustrations next week.  (There are two more floors for me to explore - the next time(s) I go, whether it be with family or my fellow residents.  After all, 7-9 miles is no distance even for those of us in the UK -  but next door for many of you Folk!)

Good to be back.  Will try to post more regularly in future, as time and events allow.  Belated Happy Easter wishes to all of you - my lovely Friendly Followers.

Your Friend - Isobel